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Editorial Introduction

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Chris Wickham’s Framing the Early Middle Ages is a towering comparative overview of Rome’s successor-states in the four centuries after its collapse in the West. Not only does it bring together evidence from across the continent in a way that will inform all subsequent serious discussions of the period, it also conceptualises an important, peasant-mode of production. Notwithstanding these strengths, Framing has been criticised for its structuralist, static characterisation of feudalism. The debates surveyed in this essay suggest that, while Wickham’s book will act as a milestone in the history of Europe, it should also act as a spur to further research and critical reflection on the period. Moreover, in the light of recent criticisms of Marxist historiography, Wickham’s book and the debate surrounding it point to the continued vibrancy of historical materialism.

Affiliations: 1: Leeds Metropolitan University, Email:


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